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Mike Edmonson has missed his self-imposed deadline.

First, Edmonson, former Superintendent of Louisiana State Police (LSP) screamed foul when a state AUDIT of LSP was leaked prematurely, ostensibly before he’d had the opportunity to review it and to respond.

Then, when WWL-TV ran a screen shot of the auditor’s LETTER to Edmonson, we learned that the alleged “leak” in all likelihood came from Edmonson himself because only two copies of the audit were printed.

One copy went to LSP and the other to Edmonson for his review and comments before publication. But only one of those two copies contained the letter to the former state top cop.

That would seem to eliminate all potential sources of the leak but one: Edmonson himself.

But Edmonson, apparently unaware of the significance of that screen shot, went on the offensive, claiming that he had been grievously wronged by the premature “leaking” of the audit before he had his chance to respond.

“For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was (sic) disseminated to media outlets throughout the State—all before I could respond to the various contentions (sic),” he said in a written statement to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. “Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.

“…Given the publication of large segments of a preliminary commentary, and the apparent breach of normal practices that seems to have disclosed the entirety of the confidential draft report, I am now constrained (sic) to notify you that you can release the report and provide your report to the Louisiana State Senate this week. I, in turn, will promptly deliver my response feeling confident the residents of this State will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented. That is the way the process works, that is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect.”

On Dec. 14, he said he would submit his official response to the audit’s “various contentions” by Jan. 15, 2018. That gave him a full month to compose his rebuttal.

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/12/14/edmonson-predictably-tries-to-spin-lsp-audit-release-as-gov-edwards-like-lady-macbeth-tries-in-vain-to-remove-the-spot/

January 15, 2018, came and went yesterday (Monday) and a text message to Purpera’s office revealed Edmonson has yet to submit his response.

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One of the most frustrating jobs in state government has to be that of the Legislative Auditor.

The office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that audits and sworn financial statements of all public entities are carried out in a timely—and legally-prescribed—manner and that the books of those entities are in order.

Yet, whenever discrepancies are found and reported, little comes of the auditors’ reports. Oh, in cases where the findings are significant, such as the recent audit of the management of former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, a report will make a big splash in the media.

But then, it quickly becomes old news and is forgotten. All too often, in the end, nothing is done to actually rein in those who might be guilty of lax fiscal responsibility over their organization or worse—possible malfeasance.

Seldom is there any follow-up on the part of those who have the authority to make changes. An office or agency head continues to lead the organization with little or no disciplinary action handed down from above, be it from a department head, cabinet member, or, in some cases, the governor himself.

In short, there is little real accountability in state government. A critical audit, conducted at no small expense, points out shortcomings, a management letter is generated promising reforms, and life—and abuses of the public trust—go on unabated.

As Exhibit A, we have the Auditor’s NON-COMPLIANCE LIST, a dishonor roll that dates back as far as 2004 and which contains well over 100 agencies, offices, organizations and individuals who have failed to comply with state statutes.

The list is liberally peppered with justices of the peace, community development districts, constables, social organizations, and even municipalities, sheriffs’ offices, and clerks of court—all reflecting the widespread disregard for fiscal responsibility or, to be charitable, just plain ignorance of the law.

Any organization that has any financial relationship with the state or a parish must, depending on the size of the organization’s budget, provide a review/attestation of its financial condition, a sworn financial statement, or a full-blown audit on a yearly basis.

From Acadia to Winn, virtually every parish has at least one organization on the non-compliance list. Here are a few examples:

  • The Beauregard Parish Hospital Service District No. 1, Merryville—five times between the years 2004 and 2009: failure to produce an audit;
  • The Ward 7 Caddo Parish Constable—seven years between 2009 and 2016: no sworn financial statements;
  • The Resource Center in Caddo—10 straight years, from 2008 to 2017: no financial statements;
  • Louisiana Auto Insurance Plan, East Baton Rouge Parish—10 straight years, from 2007 to 2016: no audit;
  • Ville Platte City Marshal, Evangeline Parish—six consecutive years, from 2012 to 2017: no sworn financial statement;
  • St. Landry Parish Constable, District 8—nine years between 2005 and 2016: no sworn financial statement.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera, contacted by LouisianaVoice, acknowledged the frustration of constantly having to chase down the various offices. “It keeps us pretty busy and it costs the state money to track this in terms of both money and man-hours.”

He said state law says when any organization found to be in non-compliance for three consecutive years, that is considered malfeasance. “That law is on the books,” he said.

STATE REP. NEIL ABRAMSON

A few years back, State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) attempted to push through a bill in the legislature which would required any non-governmental organization (NGO) or public body to be on the Legislative Auditor’s approved list (not on the non-compliance list) in order to be eligible to receive any state funding or to conduct business with the state.

Abramson’s bill failed.

Now, who would have ever thought that?

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Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has released the investigative audit of Louisiana State Police (LSP) pursuant to receiving an undated letter from former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson in which Edmonson said he felt “constrained” to notify Purpera to release the audit to the State Senate.

At the same time, Edmonson said he would submit his official response to the audit’s “various contentions” by Jan. 15, 2018.

Edmonson, in his rambling, grammar mistake-laden letter, continued to cling to the claim that the audit was released prematurely by Purpera’s office.

Simultaneous to the release of the audit, Gov. John Bel Edwards released a curious two-paragraph statement of his own concerning the findings of the audit report. In his statement, Edwards managed to avoid mentioning Edmonson by name, referring to him instead as LSP’s “previous leader.”

“I have welcomed this investigation from the beginning and instructed the Louisiana State Police to fully cooperate,” Edwards said. “The Legislative Auditor’s report uncovered some troubling findings and serious problems with past abuses of power from its previous leader who left his post in March. I believe that public servants must always hold themselves to the highest ethical standards,” the governor said. “That being said, our men and women of the State Police are honorable public servants who do a tremendous job protecting the citizens of Louisiana, often under very dangerous circumstances. Through the leadership of Col. Kevin Reeves (Edmonson’s successor), who took the helm of this department in March of this year, the department has already taken significant steps to restore public trust and accountability. Col. Reeves is one of the finest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I am confident that he is already leading the State Police in a new, positive direction.”

Well, Gov. Edwards, I’m sorry, but you don’t get off that easily.

You have been governor now just a couple of weeks shy of two years. I have been writing about Mike Edmonson since June 2014, beginning with that bill amendment sneaked into the legislature on the last day of the 2014 session which would have given Edmonson an illegal boost to his retirement of about $100,000 per year. You voted for that amendment but then, to your credit, called for an investigation when the ruse was exposed by LouisianaVoice.

That story, which LouisianaVoice was first to break, put you and every other member of the Louisiana Legislature on notice of just what Edmonson was capable of. You knew from that day forward that despite his denials, he had encouraged Sen. Neil Riser to slip that amendment into the bill.

But LouisianaVoice didn’t stop there. We kept writing stories about Edmonson’s mismanagement:

  • About his promotion of a supervisor who was hooked on prescription drugs;
  • About his promotion of a trooper who tried to sneak an underaged woman (not his wife) into a Mississippi casino;
  • About his lack of disciplinary action when a trooper had sex (twice) with a woman in his patrol vehicle while on duty;
  • About a trooper who was allowed over an extended period of time to work a fraction of his shift before going home and going to bed;
  • About how he lied to the State Police Commission about the creation of a lieutenant colonel position for a specific member of his inner circle;
  • About how he lied when he said the raises he pushed through for State Troopers would not benefit him or the command officers immediately under him (they did);

There were dozens more such stories published by LouisianaVoice.

Yes, Governor, I wrote consistently about Mike Edmonson for the year before you were elected and for the two-plus years since. You knew what the problems were. Still, you re-appointed him.

You even danced the old bureaucratic shuffle on that issue when I emailed you on Oct. 27, 2015, following your election:

“Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.”

Your response:

“I don’t intend one way or the other.”

But you did intend. You already knew, thanks to your endorsement by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, that you had no choice other than to re-appoint him.

Edmonson himself told the Baton Rouge Advocate that you told him on the night of the election, at a party at the Hotel Monteleone, “that he had never even considered another candidate for superintendent.”

But you did have a choice. You had the West Point Honor Code to fall back on. You could have done the right thing and cut Edmonson loose because you already knew he was a liability.

Still, you re-appointed him. The Sheriffs’ Association endorsement meant a lot, didn’t it?

So please, Governor, don’t try to take the high road on this issue. The auditor’s report did not uncover a single problem that had not already been publicized on LouisianaVoice.

For three years.

And now, like Lady Macbeth, you’re trying to get the spot out. But it won’t wash.

But enough of that. Back to Mike Edmonson’s letter.

“As you of all people know,” he wrote to Purpera, “the protocol used…is to provide the recipient (of an audit), whether it is an individual, a public board, or another public body, with a confidential draft report to afford the responding party and opportunity to address the statements in the draft report before it is publicly disseminated.

“For inexplicable reasons, the confidential draft report regarding me and the Louisiana State Police was leaked to the media and the contents of the draft then was (sic) disseminated to media outlets throughout the State—all before I could respond to the various contentions (sic). Realizing the inherent unfairness to me, the residents of our State, as well as respect for the normal procedures, I trust your office has begun an investigation into this improper conduct and will soon report your findings.

“…Given the publication of large segments of a preliminary commentary, and the apparent breach of normal practices that seems to have disclosed the entirety of the confidential draft report, I am now constrained (sic) to notify you that you can release the report and provide your report to the Louisiana State Senate this week. I, in turn, will promptly deliver my response feeling confident the residents of this State will not prematurely reach conclusions until all of the facts are presented. That is the way the process works, that is the only impartial and objective approach, and I strongly believe that is what our fellow citizens expect.”

First of all, Mike, the contents of the audit were not disseminated to “media outlets throughout the state.” Two media outlets had it and they were news partners—the Baton Rouge Advocate and WWL-TV in New Orleans. That was it. Not throughout the state. Not even throughout Baton Rouge.

Second, there were only two copies of the audit. One went to LSP and the other to Edmonson. And the one to Edmonson was the only one with a cover letter to Edmonson himself—and that was the one that was released. WWL-TV even flashed a copy of that COVER LETTER on screen when it aired its story about the audit.

Ergo, there is only one way that audit could have been leaked: from Mike Edmonson himself or someone acting on his behalf. The motive could only be what Edmonson expressed in his letter: to allow him to claim he was treated unfairly and that his defense has been compromised by the prejudicial release of the audit before he could respond.

Unsurprisingly, when LouisianaVoice first called attention to WWL’s posting a copy of that cover letter, the station promptly took the story down. But screen shots of the letter were captured by viewers who apparently anticipated just such a move.

oOo

Editor’s Note: There’s a lot going on with this audit that cannot be covered in a single story. For example, Reeves and several of the troopers involved in that San Diego trip have responded to the audit in writing. One of those responses was 16 pages in length.

Plus, there was a meeting Thursday of the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee which had some interesting exchanges.

LouisianaVoice will be taking these on in separate stories over the coming days.

 

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It was a possibility almost too bizarre an idea to entertain.

It was just too weird to even consider.

The evidence was right there, however, for all to see and the conclusion was inescapable.

Mike Edmonson, erstwhile Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and once the most powerful law enforcement official in the state, had outed himself.

It’s not as if he had not been disgraced enough already. From the ill-fated but almost successful attempt to pad his own retirement in defiance of existing state regulations to that astonishingly ill-fated San Diego misadventure—with at least a dozen ugly stories of mismanagement, questionable promotions, and assorted rumors squeezed in between—would bring an ordinary man to disgrace.

But to leak a state audit that turned a glaring light on his propensity to use his position for personal financial gain and which may have left him exposed to major IRS penalties and even prosecution is the latest in a long line of of incredibly poor decisions that leaves observers a little incredulous.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Mike Edmonson—or someone acting on his behalf—leaked a copy of that devastating audit to the Baton Rouge Advocate and/or New Orleans television station WWL, which identifies itself as a news partner of the Advocate.

Do the math. There were only two copies of the audit. One went to LSP. The other was sent to Edmonson. The one provided Edmonson included a cover letter addressed to him. The one received by LSP did not contain that cover letter. That pretty much narrows the origin of the leak to a single source—Edmonson himself.

And when you watch the WWL report, 40 seconds into the VIDEO there is a shot of that cover letter dated Nov. 28 and addressed to “Dear Colonel Edmonson.”

Oops.

Pause the video at that spot and you can see for yourself that the first two paragraphs of that letter read:

“Enclosed please find a draft of our investigative audit report regarding the Department of Public Safety and Corrections – Public Safety Services – Office of State Police. Draft reports are not public documents and should be maintained in a confidential manner until the final report is officially released by the Legislative Auditor (Emphasis ours).

“At this time, we are asking you to provide any information you may have which may affect the findings contained in the draft report. Any information deemed material will be included in the final report. If you choose to respond, please respond no later than noon on December 12, 2017. Your written response will be included as part of the final report.”

Edmonson, as has been typical of him all along, again reacted as the aggrieved victim. He texted Advocate reporter Jim Mustian in advance of Friday’s publication of the audit’s findings to complain that if he (Mustian) published the audit’s contents prior to the release of the final report “you will be negating my legal right to review. The process is for me to respond back to them first, not the media. Whoever furnished you with the report did so without the approval of the auditor’s office,” he said.

It is important to parse his words here. When he said whoever furnished the report did so “without the approval of the auditor’s office,” notice he did not say it was without his approval. But the most important passage was “you will be negating my legal right to review.” (Emphasis ours)

That’s key. By first leaking the document and then, after Mustian contacted him for a comment before publication, following up with that email, Edmonson could have been setting the stage for his legal strategy. He will no doubt lawyer up if he has not done so already. And you can expect his legal counsel to claim that he was:

  • ratted out by disgruntled former subordinates;
  • treated unfairly by reporters and bloggers;
  • tried in the court of public opinion before he ever had a chance to defend himself from the ravenous wolves.

He will likely claim the premature release of the audit has placed him at an unfair disadvantage from which it will all but impossible for him recover.

And you can bet he did not leak the audit directly, but through a third party. Or if he did leak it directly, it was via a fictitious email account that could not be traced back to him. One person who knows Edmonson said he suspects it was by an email account set up under an alias. “Or it may have been done by an attorney,” though, he said he would first start “with Mike.”

The same person said he did not think Edmonson was smart enough to attempt a preemptive strike to gain a legal edge by claiming his defense was tainted by the premature release.

He said he audit report, while likely reflecting most adversely on Edmonson, probably includes other findings against the entire department which may have led Edmonson to believe the focus would be on the broader agency issues. “If that’s the reason, it was a huge miscalculation,” he said. “In fact, whatever his motive, it was a huge error. The audit is damning in its detail.

“And when I was watching WWL, I saw the closeup with his name on the cover letter. There was the smoking gun.”

 

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First of all, let’s give credit where it’s due: Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Jim Mustian pulled off a major coup in securing and publishing the FINDINGS of the Legislative Auditor’s preliminary report of its audit of Louisiana State Police (LSP). The fact that the document is a draft and not the final document in no way diminishes the importance of the findings nor does it really matter how Mustian obtained it—except perhaps to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

Former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who was subjected to withering criticism in the report, is livid that it was leaked before he had an opportunity to respond to its findings. He texted Mustian to say that by reporting the audit’s contents, “you will be negating my legal right to review. The process is for me to respond back to them first, not the media. Whoever furnished you with the report did so without the approval of the auditor’s office,” he said.

Purpera told LouisianaVoice that he is confident the leak did not come from his office because he tracks who has access to reports prior to their release. That would appear to narrow the premature release to someone within LSP. But appearances are misleading.

As the officials say during those college and NFL football games, upon further review, a WWL-TV newscast about the audit Friday may have inadvertently revealed the real source of the leak. If you go to the 40-second spot on this VIDEO, you will see a screenshot of the auditor’s Nov. 28 cover letter to….Edmonson. The only other audit copy went to LSP but that one did not contain the cover letter to the former superintendent.

That can mean only one thing: The audit report was leaked by none other than Edmonson himself—or by someone to whom he provided a copy of the report.

So, it would seem that his anger over the premature release of the audit is somewhat misplaced.

And the fact remains that had Edmonson not gamed the system to his and his family’s advantage, there would be no reason for him to find it necessary to exercise his “legal right to review.”

Edmonson, who many rank-and-file troopers refer to as “Precious,” said he was preparing a detailed response to the “lengthy” report and that he looked forward to “answering any questions after the release of the final report.” We can’t wait.

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans watchdog group that monitors public wrongdoing, said the audit showed Edmonson to be “less the colonel of the State Police and more the Boss Hog of the State Police,” a reference to the popular TV series that ran from 1979 to 1985. He said the audit signaled “a day of celebration” for rank-and-file troopers who were aware of what Edmonson was doing to the organization and of his “self-serving decisions.”

Meanwhile, details that have come out of LSP headquarters about the manner in which Edmonson mixed personal and departmental business, accepted free hotel rooms and other services, and generally ran the department like his own fiefdom has gotten the attention of the feds.

“The Louisiana State Police has been and continues to coordinate efforts with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding this matter,” said Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, in a statement to The Advocate and to LouisianaVoice.

U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson, of the Middle District of Louisiana, confirmed that his office “has been and will continue coordinating with State Police,” Mustian reported.

LSP Public Affairs Officer Lt. J.B. Slaton also said, “We continue to cooperate with the Legislative Auditor’s office. The department is currently formulating our response to the findings and recommendations of the audit. That response will be included in the final report and disseminated by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.” He said any further comment “would be premature and interfere with the Legislative Auditor’s standard procedures and directives to the department.”

So, what, exactly, does that audit report say?

Well, here are a few of the low points taken from Mustian’s story:

  • He used a state credit card to purchase more than $7,000 in special meals without approval from the Division of Administration and without sufficient documentation to show their business purpose.
  • He moved his family into the Department of Public Safety (DPS) compound “without legal authority” to do so, allowing taxpayers to pick up the cost of his utilities, including cable TV and electricity. Its formal name is the Residential Conference Center. It was constructed in 2002 and intended only to house the governor and State Police superintendent during emergencies such as hurricanes.
  • He did not include his use of the residence, valued at nearly $435,000, as a fringe benefit on his federal form W-2 during the time he and his family resided there, from February 2008 (right after his appointment by Bobby Jindal) to March 2017 when he retired under fire from the now notorious San Diego TRIP. Auditors feel he should have paid taxes on the benefit but are uncertain if he did. Perhaps that’s one of the questions he will answer.
  • He made a practice of requiring state troopers to transport his wife to various places: bar-hopping in New Orleans, gambling in Lake Charles, to the Baton Rouge airport, or to take his wife, mother-in-law and a friend to and from a Bob Seger concert in Lafayette. On one such occasion, troopers said they were ordered to escort Mrs. Edmonson and a friend to the French Quarter while they were wearing costumes that may have included parts of the LSP uniform.
  • He procured complimentary hotel rooms in New Orleans for friends and family and even received improper reimbursement for them. He allowed friends and family to stay in extra hotel rooms that were paid for by the city of New Orleans and which were intended for troopers working Mardi Gras detail. He would receive multiple rooms in his name or the names of other troopers, the report said. He also received reimbursement from State Police for a hotel room in 2014 even though the city of New Orleans had reserved a room for him in a different hotel. In February 2015, he allowed two friends to stay in a Windsor Court suite that was intended for troopers. He admitted inviting the friends but said he thought they paid for the room. A friend of Edmonson’s said Edmonson booked rooms for him and his wife at Windsor Court on numerous occasions but that they did not know they were paid for by the city of New Orleans. In 2016, Edmonson obtained another room and Loews New Orleans Hotel for his stepdaughter and her friend that was intended for a trooper. Edmonson claimed it was an “extra room” that had been taken out of service because the air conditioner was broken.
  • He annually received free tickets to the Endymion Mardi Gras Extravaganza. State law prohibits public servants from accepting anything of economic value as a gift or gratuity from any person or organization who has or is seeking contractual or other business or financial relationships with that public servant’s agency. Endymion paid LSP nearly $400,000 from 2013 to 2017 for security details.
  • He received more than $6,300 between January 2014 and March 2017 as a daily allowance from LSP to pay for cleaning his uniform. Yet he used the dry-cleaning service at the Governor’s Mansion to clean his uniform and other clothing for free.
  • He consistently failed to pay for his meals at the State Police cafeteria. While he told auditors it was possible during his tenure that he walked out of the cafeteria without paying for his coffee, the cafeteria manager said he failed to pay for his meals at least half the time.
  • He ordered inmates to deliver food to his residence, used state resources to service his son’s jeep and his wife’s vehicle, and had prisoners cook, clean, and walk the family dog.

Those were some of the specifics. In general terms, the audit painted a portrait of a freeloader who was not above taking every handout that came his way, Mustian said.

Basically, most of the points covered are things the media knew—or at least suspected— Edmonson was doing all along, so the audit’s criticisms are really nothing new at all.

One LouisianaVoice reader wrote on Facebook, “Karma is such a good thing.”

Some have a different word for it.

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